Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language amid Wars of Translation
Vicente L. Rafael is Professor of History at the University of Washington. His books include The Promise of the Foreign, White Love and Other Events in Filipino History, and Contracting Colonialism, all also published by Duke University Press.
Language, History, and Autobiography: Becoming Reynaldo Ileto
This chapter inquires into the relationship between translation and autobiography in the work of Reynaldo Ileto. In his classic work, Pasyon and Revolution, Ileto methodically juxtaposes Tagalog documents with their explications in English. The book thus arranges the two languages in a relationship of translation. However, this linguistic complexity and the politics of language it implies are deflected in Ileto’s later autobiographical writings, where Ileto is more concerned with dramatizing his relationship with his father. He compares his father’s experiences in the United States as a soldier at West Point in the midst of World War II with his own sojourn in America as a graduate student at Cornell at the height of the student movements against the war in Vietnam. Yet autobiography can also work like translation, though in the opposite direction as that of Pasyon and Revolution. Whereas the book enacts the loosening of linguistic and social hierarchies in the revolution, the autobiography reinforces them. The latter tells of the splitting and substitution of selves, the excavation and overcoming of the father’s name, and the replacement of the theme of the “unfinished revolution” with stories of gendered and generational succession.